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‘Santa Claus’ takes in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’

This Santa’s Great Xmas Present “Miracle on 34 St.” Santa Sings!Part I

Wow, what a great Christmas gift I got ... 2 tickets to the John W. Engeman Theater’s (JWE) new musical “Miracle on 34 Street” at Northport, Long Island.

Sharon and I saw this spectacular show on opening night, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which also brings into mind the great Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade that heralds the Christmas Season with Santa Claus and actually is the basis for this story.

Before you’re inundated with the deluge of Christmas commercialism that’s already started, recapture the spirit of Christmas with this timeless classic telling of a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus, refreshingly acted and sung by Kenneth Cavett, a my size Santa.Go and enjoy this perfect holiday musical and bring your kids too, especially the skeptics.

Kris Kringle is institutionalized as insane by a Macy’s psychiatrist, wonderfully and comically acted by Dale Hensley, who evaluates him as insane after he was hired by Macy’s as Santa. A young lawyer friend acted by Jim Sorenson decides to defend him in court by proving he is really Kris Kringle to win over his cynical girlfriend Laurie Wells in the Maureen O’Hara role, whose daughter Gianna LePera in the role that Natalie Wood created as a tear jerker, is also being reared cynical into not believing Santa.Kris Kringle was starting to win the child over to believe in the miracles of Christmas when her mother, who hired Santa originally to replace an intoxicated Santa, inadvertently sends Kris Kringle to Bellvue after being tricked by the psychiatrist. Santa is crushed by the betrayal and prefers to stay in Bellvue rather than deal with supposedly sane people in the real world. The lawyer friend originally played by movie idol John Payne convinces him that Santa is needed by all the children of the world and the ensuing court battle guarantees everyone will have a Merry Christmas.

The conversion to this successful musical must be credited to the talents of Douglas Smith who wrote the lovely music and Vernon L. Stefanic, who penned the book and clever lyrics. This is their second joint venture and Fred Ebb and John Kandor better watch out, there’s a new musical team that’s gonna brighten up Broadway. The plot is comically moved along by the antics of Patrick Richwood, whose face and Paul Linde characterizations should be familiar to you, having been in tons of commercials, movies and TV shows for decades.

The stars mentioned not only performed their roles to perfection but their beautiful singing talents were totally in abundance, melodically articulating the lyrics so essential to the story.I thought Little Gianna LePera as Susan, the once skeptical daughter, made the part her own, not only was she better than Natalie Wood, but she can sing and she hails from downtown Brooklyn. Another familiar face and talent you’ll recognize is of Steve Luker who plays Mr. Macy.

After performing in last year’s production of Oliver, I’m proud as a peacock to brag that my granddaughter Alexa Sgroi is a member of the children’s ensemble in the role of Rachel, the first child who greets the new Macys’ Santa. The other talented kids are Salvatore Casto, Allissa Cavallaro, Nancy Fallon, Jake Huben, Sarah Nicole Kendrick, Emma Kowalchuk, Marisa Pierni, Michael Recchia, Larry Saperstein. Ater all, how could you do Christmas without kids? The ensembles are professional Broadway actors who took direction from accomplished Erick Devine.It was Devine’s direction that made the musical work so well, no easy task when you have a book that almost everyone knows verbatim. This time you’ll enjoy watching this classic story as a musical and it’s the entire ensemble of energetic, talented professionals that will start your Christmas joy early.Take this Santa’s tip and go on line to order your tickets www.EngemanTheater.com, or call 631 261-2900.To be continued.

Screech at you next week!

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